Examining the Panthers run/pass ratio in relation to offensive success

Rob Chudzinski has received a fair share of the blame for the Panthers' losses, but is it deserved?

While there has been a great deal of praise heaped on the offense for how they've handled themselves in the first quarter of the season there's also been some criticisms leveled by fans at offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski's play calling. We're experiencing a very different style of football that what we saw for almost a decade with John Fox. Fans were aware the reliance on a running game would be diminished, but not to the degree we've seen thus far.

Through four games the Panthers' running backs have totaled just 68 rushing attempts, an average of 17 per game. Under Fox we routinely saw rushing averages in the 30s. 

Today I'm looking at the run/pass ratio through three games. Not simply in terms of our one win vs. three losses, but as an overall picture of offensive success. Please note, when it comes to rushing statistics I am not including Cam Newton's numbers, just plays called for the running backs. The monsoon in week three with make that game difficult to evaluate, but nonetheless lets look deeper into the offensive numbers... 

After the jump

Game One- Arizona

Passing: 37 attempts for 422 yards (11.4 YPA), 2TD/1INT

Rushing: 19 attempts for 56 yards (2.9 YPC)

Clock control: 32:47 time of possession

1st downs: 17 by passing, 7 by rushing

1st downs in relation to play calling: Passing- 45.9%   Rushing- 36.8%

3rd down efficiency: 27%

Red Zone Efficiency: 50%

Goal to Go Efficiency: 100%

- In this game it's hard to argue with the decision to vastly favor the passing game over the run game. Cam Newton was torching the Cardinals' defense and his efficiency was almost four-times that of the running game. When this is coupled with a greater time of possession and a greater percentage of passes being 1st downs and the decision here was the right one.

Did Chud make the right call week one? Yes

 

Game Two- Green Bay

Passing: 46 attempts for 432 yards (9.4 YPA), 1TD/3INT

Rushing: 11 attempts for 18 yards (1.6 YPC)

Clock control: 32:34 time of possession

1st downs: 18 by passing, 6 by rushing

1st downs in relation to play calling: Passing- 39%   Rushing- 55%

3rd down efficiency: 37%

Red Zone efficiency: 33%

Goal to go efficiency: 50%

- Again, it's hard to argue with the methodology that had Cam Newton throw the ball more than four times as often as the running game. It wasn't broken, so why fix it? The running game struggled greatly, except for in hard yardage situations when it vastly outstripped the passing game. If there was one critique we could level on the Panthers for this game it would be relying too heavily on Cam Newton in short yardage situations instead of the running backs. This is most prevalent in that 50% goal to go statistic, this is when the Panthers had to settle for field goals because they were unable to punch the ball in.

Did Chud make the right call week two? Yes

 

Game Three- Jacksonville

Passing: 34 attempts for 158 yards (4.6 YPA), 1TD/1INT

Rushing: 20 attempts for 77 yards (3.9 YPC)

Clock control: 29:34 time of possession

1st downs: 10 by passing, 5 by rushing

1st downs in relation to play calling: Passing- 29%   Rushing- 25%

3rd down efficiency: 37%

Red Zone efficiency: 33%

Goal to go efficiency: N/A

- This game is far harder to justify the play calling being skewed to the passing game 62% of the time. The conditions weren't conducive to a passing game, the Panthers lost the ToP battle and the running game was nearly as productive. What this comes down to is Cam Newton bailing out the offense in the fourth quarter, because for three quarters of the game Newton was struggling and Chud didn't change up the play to address it. 

Did Chud make the right call week three? No

 

Game Four- Chicago

Passing: 46 attempts for 374 yards (8.1 YPA), 1TD/1INT

Rushing: 18 attempts for 134 yards (7.4 YPC)

Clock control: 33:29 time of possession

1st downs: 14 by passing, 9 by rushing

1st downs in relation to play calling: Passing- 30%   Rushing: 50%

3rd down efficiency: 16%

Red Zone efficiency: 60%

Goal to go efficiency: 100%

- This is the game where a lot of people are hanging the miscues on the offensive play calling. In reality, you'll see that the game was called as it should have been. The passing game was working better in terms of pure yardage, they controlled the ToP, and had great red zone/goal to efficiency. There is one area that typifies some miscues, and that's the miserable 3rd down efficiency. We saw the running game was able to pick up 1st downs on 50% of their plays, yet there was far too much of a reliance on 3rd down to throwing the football. Regardless, the Panthers still controlled the clock and should have won barring a few mistakes here and there.

Did Chud make the right call? Yes

 

Final Analysis

The overarching critique we've all recognized is that the Panthers are able to move the ball up and down the field at will, but when they get inside the red zone they struggle on the short field. When diving into the efficiencies the Panthers are actually playing extremely well on offense, their red zone and goal to go efficiencies are above league averages. Look at what happens to these efficiencies for our opponents: 

- Red Zone Efficiency (Opponents): 39%

- Red Zone Efficiency (Panthers): 44%

- Goal to go Efficiency (Opponents): 44%

- Goal to go Efficiency (Panthers): 83%

In the short field the Panthers are doing well, but overall they're simply allowing too many touchdowns. Thus far the Panthers have allowed 4 rushing TDs (22nd in the NFL) and 2 return TDs (31st in the NFL). The pass defense is holding well, the offense is clicking... the Panthers just need to get their speical teams and run defense in line and they'll be fine.

The moral of this story is that while we have a new offensive brain trust and Sunday's may look foreign to the kind of football we're used to in Carolina, overall the play calling has been the right decision on 3/4 Sundays. 

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